Random Rules

Monday, August 04, 2008

It’s quintessentially human to think that success or failure can be attributed to a clear and obvious cause. But Leonard Mlodinow believes that randomness and chance play a more profound role than we like to think. His new book is The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives.


Leonard Mlodinow

Comments [8]

richard sloat from east village

As Catherine talked about above there is the real world and statistics. The speaker used statistics in an unscientific manner. To think backwards and say someone will beat the market so that this person who beat the market is a chance happening, is wrong. What is the real world situation? A scientist would take a number of those who consistently beat the market, those who did the market average, and those were below the market for say 10 years and see how they did over the next ten years. This is much more informative. I totally agree with the speaker about fate but feel it is not all that random.

Aug. 04 2008 04:33 PM
Catherine from Long Island

Stephen Jay Gould taught us that in much of human endeavor the "Median Is Not The Message" Although statistical chances of one surviving cancer, in his case his first unsurvivable cancer, may be 0.1%, however, the chances of one individual surviving it bear little relationship to the odds in general, but are determined by the vast number of attributes and circumstances unique to the individual. These might include becoming sick before or after new a medical advance, having the best doctors in the field or becoming sick without the resources for medical care, and one’s own constitution such as genes, nutrition, and physical and emotional states. Luck, good or bad, does not work in a vacuum. Two people crossing a busy street have no control of the vehicles or drives that may cross their paths but the two may have vastly different outcomes when crossing the street if one wears ear plugs and eye patches and the other looks both ways. And neither of their individual results are relevant to the odds in general. Randomness, and luck or lack of it may be out of our control, but it is up to the individual to take an active role in their own interest so that they can be in the all important position to recognize and take advantage of the good luck they may encounter or alternatively to avoid being killed by an oncoming car. To this extent, it is the individual and NOT the odds that make all the difference.

Aug. 04 2008 02:20 PM
Steve (the other one) from Manhattan

Funny - I was just thinking about last-year's Giants ...

Aug. 04 2008 01:58 PM
Ellen from Brooklyn

I think it's an interesting topic, but I also don't think it's so bad that we have a hard time believing in randomness. I've heard that happier people tend to believe that they had more control than they actually do when it comes to good results, but believe that bad things are just random and out of their control. More pessimistic people view both good and bad things with skepticism. It seems like you can actually lead a happier life by being wrong about randomness

Aug. 04 2008 01:56 PM
DaveA from NYC

BTW W.Buffet changed his mind regarding Mutual Funds outperforming individual stocks, a few years ago, under the weight of overwhelming evidence contrary to his previous thinking.

Aug. 04 2008 01:56 PM
hjs from 11211

is it randomness or fate?

Aug. 04 2008 01:50 PM

Interesting topic. We humans are so afraid of randomness, because we want to think we are in control of our lives.

I love that Mlodinow doesn't equate wealth with richness. He must not be from around here.

Aug. 04 2008 01:45 PM
JT from Long Island

I worked in high tech on the west coast for 11 years and it was surprising how many people out there did not belive in luck. People that got lucky and selected the right employer at the right time by pure chance thought their wealth was a result of their incredible skill and hard work. It never occurred to them that others worked just as hard and were just as smart but ended up at the wrong dot com for various reasons.

Aug. 04 2008 01:34 PM

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